Although winter is a time generally free of outdoor allergens, this season has its own unique harmful breathing conditions to be on the alert for. Homes that rely on hot air furnaces to stay warm often have dry and stagnant air, which can irritate the nose and breathing passages. Dry air can also cause damage to walls, ceilings, and wood finishes within a home.
Further, flu viruses are known to flourish in cold, dry air with very little moisture, making the flu easier to spread and even increasing the length of time it remains contagious once airborne. This means it’s possible dry winter air may increase your family’s risk of catching the flu.
Dry air is avoided by keeping your home’s humidity level between 35 – 45%, which is what a humidifier is designed to regulate. Along with helping to protect the home against dry air damage, humidifiers significantly improve air quality.
Here are a few tips for putting the moisture back into your home, and your body:
Use a humidifier. Running a humidifier in your home will add moisture to dry, heated air. The moist air will help keep your skin, mouth, and nose lubricated, and helps prevent those nasty static shocks. Your goal is to aim for a comfortable home humidity level of between 30% and 45%. Don’t crank up the humidifier higher than that, though, or you could develop another problems like mold, fungi, dust mites, etc. Make sure to keep your humidifier clean so that it doesn’t send dust and germs spewing into your house. One of the best ways to fight dry winter air conditions is by installing a whole-house humidifier that connects to your central heating system.
Seal your home. Prevent the cold, dry air outside from paying you an unwelcome visit. Insulate your home so you don’t have to turn up the heat. Close any air leaks in doors, windows, attics, and crawl spaces with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping. Sealing off air leaks will also help you save money on your monthly heating bill, because you’ll feel warm and cozy enough to turn down the thermostat a few notches.
Hydrate often. Keep your skin and mouth moist by drinking water throughout the day. Don’t like water? Tea and juice are also good ways to rehydrate.
Shorten your showers. Long, hot showers might feel great on frigid winter mornings, but the heat and steam can really dry out your skin. Turn the water temperature down to warm — not hot — and use a gentle soap. Get out as soon as you’re clean, or under 15 minutes, whichever comes first.
Moisturize. Rub a thick oil-based moisturizer onto your skin frequently each day, especially after you take a shower or bath. The oil in the product will lock moisture into your skin and keep it from drying out. Moisturizers come in different forms, but ointments will provide the most protection for dry skin. Make sure to apply moisturizing sunscreen with SPF 30 to exposed skin before going outside. Also apply a lip balm to protect against chapped lips. Help keep your nasal passageways moist by using salt water (saline) drops or spray.